Carla Thompson: 2018 Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award Recipient

December 5, 2018

Trusted mentor and game-changing marketer accepts highest honor awarded by SMPS.

Alexandria, VA-The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), the premier A/E/C marketing and business development association, is pleased to announce that Carla Thompson, FSMPS, CPSM, has been honored with the 2018 Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award (MAA). The Society’s highest honor, the Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award, salutes a remarkable marketing or business development professional whose career achievements, leadership role, and lasting contributions to the industry are exemplary. View Thompson’s MAA video tribute from the Evening of Excellence.

Carla Thompson, a member of SMPS Seattle, accepted her award at Build Business, the SMPS annual conference, on Thursday, August 16, 2018, during the Evening of Excellence. Thompson joins a distinguished group of accomplished members who embody the mission and spirit of SMPS and are valued advisers to the organization. She is the 27th recipient of the award, named in memory of marketing pioneer, SMPS founder, and past honoree Weld Coxe.

Whether rebranding her firm or in front of a client, Thompson is a game changer. By definition, a game changer is a person or idea that transforms the accepted rules, processes, strategies, and management of business functions. Carla Thompson embodies this concept, which is the very reason she received the Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award.

Game Changer to the Profession

Thompson’s professional journey began in 1980, when she was working as a temp typist with Callison. Frank Stasiowski of PSMJ conducted a management audit of the firm and recommended Thompson serve as the firm’s marketing coordinator.

“I started in the basement and was given opportunities to blossom. They gave me a lot of rope and I took it.”

By her own admission, Thompson knew nothing about the A/E/C industries, so Stasiowski recommended she join SMPS. At the first luncheon Thompson attended, the guest speaker was Diane Creel, FSMPS, who was director of marketing and communications with CH2M Hill at the time. Creel was also one of the founding members of SMPS and seeing her speak put a bug in Thompson’s ear … or, should we say, the idea that someday Thompson would aspire to a bigger stage.

“I’ve always wanted to give people who work with me opportunities to expand their skill set and see what path they want to pursue. I learned early on from SMPS marketing legends like Diane Creel, Janet Aubry, Bruce Lea, and Nancy Egan that if you pursue your passion, it’s not work anymore. So I made a vow to help my staff and other marketers find their passion. There are so many people who inspired me during my career. I’m just emulating them.”

Game Changer for Firms

Thompson has made a long-lasting impact on many firms throughout her career. She has had the pleasure of working with some extraordinary firms over the years, and has left a lasting impact at each of them. After Callison, she was recruited to be director of marketing and business development for Design International, which she successfully rebranded as FORMA. She then joined Hart Crowser as director of marketing and became its first non-technical associate and shareholder.

In 2000, she was recruited to join MulvannyG2 Architecture as vice president for five years. After working for four years as a consultant, she was asked to come back as global marketing director, and stayed another five years, guiding the firm through a major rename and second rebranding effort.

Mitchell C. Smith, CEO of (now) MG2, wrote this of Thompson in a recommendation letter for the MAA: “At two critical junctures, Carla Thompson was instrumental in capturing the business and practice aspirations of the firm through a rebranding effort that served as a catalyst for growth and success.”

She worked closely with firm leaders and principals to develop marketing, business development, and PR strategies, which took MulvannyG2—now MG2—from its stealth market position to become the third largest architectural firm in Washington state, the 11th largest in the nation, and one of the top 25 architects in China during her tenure.

Her work in the China market set the stage for her time at NAC Architecture, where she served as chief marketing officer for several years. At NAC, Thompson was responsible for rebranding the firm, and she played an integral role in helping it enter the China educational market.

Thompson then received an offer she couldn’t refuse—another opportunity to take an unknown firm and position them as experts in their markets. Today, she represents Core States Group as its first senior director of marketing and plays an integral role in the firm’s growth strategy.

Game Changer for SMPS and A/E/C

Thompson joined SMPS Seattle in 1982, and became a Fellow of the Society in 1999. She has presented over 200 seminars and workshops, had numerous articles published in national publications, and garnered more than a dozen SMPS Marketing Communication Awards.

She has been a leader in her chapter and the Society, serving three separate, two-year terms on the Society board of directors as Region V Director, Fellows Delegate, and At-Large Delegate. She chaired the Society’s Chapter Services, Marketing Communications Awards, and Membership committees, and served on six national committees and six national task forces. At the chapter level, she has served as Treasurer, President, Past-President, and Senior Advisor.

Throughout her career, Thompson has always served as a role model and mentor through one-on-ones and more broadly in her role as a roundtable leader for SMPS Seattle.

She has taken on the role of creating marketing orientation programs and spends about 20 percent of her time on internal training programs for marketing team members, business developers, administrative staff, technical staff, principals, and firm leaders.

Thompson also took the lead on creating an annual SMPS Seattle Fellows Scholarship to send a deserving member to Build Business—she established the scholarship criteria and personally oversees the program. To date the chapter has awarded eight scholarships valued at over $10,000.

“Life’s too short not to have fun at work. It is serious business, but you can still have a good time.”

In her acceptance speech at Build Business, Thompson told the audience a message straight from her heart. “You don’t have to play the same game and follow the same rules as everybody else. The world has enough followers. You have to be different to make a difference.”

And what a difference she has made.

Thompson is a passionate leader, beloved mentor and teacher, and a true game changer to the profession, Society, and A/E/C industries.

Learn more about Thompson by reading the October 2018 Marketer article, “2018 Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award Recipient: Carla Thompson”

Photo caption (pictured left to right): 2017 Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award recipient R. Tim Barrick, FSMPS; 2018 Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award recipient Carla Thompson, FSMPS, CPSM; and 2017–18 Society President Nancy Usrey, FSMPS, CPSM.